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Book Review: Digital Landscape Photography: In The Footsteps Of Ansel Adams by Michael Frye

Ansel Adams and his contemporaries, Edward Weston, and Eliot Porter pioneered the field of landscape photography, but it was Adams who, along with being one of the best known for his iconic images, was also recognized as a pioneer of technique, theory, as well as of teaching of photographic techniques.

The goal of Digital Landscape Photography: In The Footsteps Of Ansel Adams is to show you what can be learned from Adams’ working process and how these lessons can be used today with modern digital techniques. The Adams philosophy is discussed and the use of the Zone system is related to the digital age. This book is 192 pages in length and divided into three main sections.

Section One, “Technical Foundations,” begins with a look at some of Ansel Adams’ techniques for creating images and how they relate to the digital equipment that we have today. Discussions on image quality include general examination of noise, noise reduction, RAW files, sharpening, and contrast.

Then you move to topics like controlling sharpness in the field to reduce shake, focus, depth of field, the use of different types of filters like poloraizing, graduated neutral density, warming, and filters for black and white, white balance, and exposure. It is in this later part that you will look at metering and the use of the Zone System.

Section Two, “Light, Composition, and the Art of Seeing,” begins with an examination of the use of light, composition, mood, and directing the eye for building your image. Then you explore composition in greater detail using the rule of thirds and the golden mean.

Moving on will get you to looking at various techniques for simplifying your images, using the power of lines, working with patterns, and changing perspective. Finally you will use color, weather and atmosphere, and motion to capture a mood and feeling for your images.

Section Three, “The Digital Darkroom: Editing, Processing, and Printing,” now looks at the darkroom process and how Adams became the master of black and white darkroom printing through the painstaking process of trial and error. Here you will begin with an overview of the editing process, and then you will explore how to choose a workflow, see how to work with the master file, look at RGB workspaces, and the process order.

Subsequent to that comes examining techniques like cropping, retouching, and converting to black and white. Next you will examine levels and curves, see how to adjust color, work with dodging and burning, and expand the contrast range. Finally you will work with High Dynamic Range (HDR) by combining images, working with gradient blends, expanding depth of field, from which you then explore printing your images.

While it does not go into depth about many of the topics, Digital Landscape Photography: In The Footsteps Of Ansel Adams, does provide a systematic overview of the process of landscape photography as a whole.

Throughout the book there are plenty of examples that demonstrate how the techniques are used and what they are meant to accomplish. What I did like is the explanation of the thought processes behind some of the works of the masters and what and how the accomplished the look. If you want a good overview of the process of landscape photography then I can recommend Digital Landscape Photography: In The Footsteps Of Ansel Adams.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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